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Humbucker adjustment using dB meter?

DHC

Member
Messages
421
Before you ask, yes, I've researched to my wit's end on the internet and youtube for tutorials on pickup height adjustment and still am not sure I'm doing it right.

My question is this: Am I crazy for thinking to use a decibel meter (iphone app) to set the pickup screws and overall height? I keep reading to set the individual string volumes to get the same output but I must have crappy ears ... can't seem to get comfortable that I'm doing it right.

But looking at a digital SPL output would provide solid feedback, right?

Thanks in advance!

Fyi, this is for a Les Paul R0 where I've upgraded to Lollar Imperials. Killer guitar, by the way ...

 

Jason_77

Senior Member
Messages
7,209
You're REALLY overthinking this! Just plug into your tuner. You can raise your pickups as high as you want until the magnetic pull makes the string warble in and out of tune. That's when you've gone too high. Anything under that is fair game. It just depends what sounds best to you.
 

GCDEF

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
28,080
Just adjust them till they sound right. There isn't much to it. I've never heard of using an SPL meter to adjust pickup height.
 

Kelly

Member
Messages
3,485
Actually, I just did that recently. Set the bridge pockup where I liked it and used my iPhone to match the output of the neck.
 

DHC

Member
Messages
421
OK, general consensus is to just plug into my amp and get it so it sounds "right."

Will give it another crack. Thanks everyone, for your responses. HAGWE
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,578
OK, general consensus is to just plug into my amp and get it so it sounds "right."

Will give it another crack.
the procedure is to set your amp clean, like really clean; any compression or overdrive will cover up the level differences.

set your bridge pickup as high as it will go and still sound good; too close and you might get the magnet pull issues as well as a bit of a "peaky" sound and even the strings hitting the pickup. (those imperials aren't gonna have magnet pull problems with their de-gaussed aII magnets, pickups like that have barely more pull than EMGs; you can get that bridge pickup right up there for maximum punch.)

now, set your neck pickup to sound about as loud as the bridge, switching back and forth and strumming full chords or even across the open strings. if you get it where they feel about the same loudness all the way across the strings, with a little more lows from the neck and a little more highs from the bridge, you're pretty much there. this will invariably mean that the neck is a lot further away from the strings than the bridge.

the polepieces are kind of an afterthought; i like to nudge the D pole up maybe 1/32" higher than the rest (the wound D is the lowest-output string of the set and the farthest away) but the fact is humbucker magnet fields are pretty full and even under the strings, they'll all come through just fine with the poles flush with the cover.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
38,578
if you do want to get "meter-happy", skip the dB meter and hook up your multimeter straight off the guitar, set to AC voltage! strum the open strings with each pickup solo'ed and watch the numbers jump around, and you can make a project of adjusting the neck to where it averages about the same output voltage as the bridge.
 

old goat

Member
Messages
1,987
Adjustment of individual pole pieces to the same decibels won't work because some frequencies sound louder than others at the same measured decibel levels. Apparently our hearing is most sensitive at 3000 Hz, or about the pitch of the average wife.
 

DHC

Member
Messages
421
the procedure is to set your amp clean, like really clean; any compression or overdrive will cover up the level differences.

set your bridge pickup as high as it will go and still sound good; too close and you might get the magnet pull issues as well as a bit of a "peaky" sound and even the strings hitting the pickup. (those imperials aren't gonna have magnet pull problems with their de-gaussed aII magnets, pickups like that have barely more pull than EMGs; you can get that bridge pickup right up there for maximum punch.)

now, set your neck pickup to sound about as loud as the bridge, switching back and forth and strumming full chords or even across the open strings. if you get it where they feel about the same loudness all the way across the strings, with a little more lows from the neck and a little more highs from the bridge, you're pretty much there. this will invariably mean that the neck is a lot further away from the strings than the bridge.

the polepieces are kind of an afterthought; i like to nudge the D pole up maybe 1/32" higher than the rest (the wound D is the lowest-output string of the set and the farthest away) but the fact is humbucker magnet fields are pretty full and even under the strings, they'll all come through just fine with the poles flush with the cover.
Thanks for this. Will give it a shot.
 

DHC

Member
Messages
421
Adjustment of individual pole pieces to the same decibels won't work because some frequencies sound louder than others at the same measured decibel levels. Apparently our hearing is most sensitive at 3000 Hz, or about the pitch of the average wife.
Good point ... Hadn't thought of the ear's sensitivity to different frequencies.
 

Tidewater Custom Shop

Performance Enhancing Guitarworks
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,691
Your senses TRUMP numbers. Numbers are a good starting point, but in the end it's what you hear and feel - uniquely - that matters. walterw's advice is a good example.
 

Alathea

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
59
Actually, I just did that recently. Set the bridge pockup where I liked it and used my iPhone to match the output of the neck.
LOL- Necro thread revival. I JUST did this, also. I was trying to adjust my filtertrons and I had the pickup height screwed up from mis-reading the ruler. I set them to about the factory height, and then my neck was still louder than my bridge according to the meter (I have high and medium pitch hearing loss *shrug*) so I raised the neck a bit until it was in the ballpark. Great minds think alike, even when overthinking.
 

poppunk

Member
Messages
935
Adjustment of individual pole pieces to the same decibels won't work because some frequencies sound louder than others at the same measured decibel levels.
I just went through this with putting click tracks on a sampler pedal for live shows. Some of the click tracks were generated from software and some off a metronome, but they need to be pretty close in how loud they are. If I did this by amplitude or power ("dBs"), one would be way louder than the other based on the meters in software. Getting them to sound the same by ear, there was about a 7 dB offset between the measured values.

Our ears not only have a frequency response and act as filters, but we also have the perception of sound. We have a lab at work that has a lot of fans, it sounds loud as hell in there. We did measurements to make sure they're within exposure limits for low probability of hearing damage. The measured values were surprisingly low. The fans generate wideband audio noise; the actual total sound pressure they produce is low but it seems really loud because of the wideband noise.

For trying to figure out how things should be leveled out, that has to be done by ear. The meters on sound equipment are great for understanding relatively where you are, and most importantly to make sure you're not over/underdriving the system (clipping being the worst problem).
 

JimHalinda

Member
Messages
888
So many variables! One thing I've learned is that I usually have to adjust the neck pickup to be slightly louder than the bridge, because when I get into a band mix, the neck pickup won't cut through as well due to fewer high frequencies in the output... so I have to raise it a little to be heard as well in a mix as a bridge pickup.
 

smallbutmighty

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
9,731
Your senses TRUMP numbers.
OMG....QFT.

In fact, QFT x 1,000,000.

Our perception is our reality. If you can't hear something, it doesn't exist to you. If you can, it does. Everybody hears things differently. Old ears. Young ears. Trained ears. Novice ears. Genetically predisposed ears. Genetically un-predisposed ears. Even a single person can hear things differently at different times in their life.

And whatever you hear is your reality, regardless of what numbers a measuring device spits out.

I guess I'm triggered by this because I do lots of tone-shootout style videos for the Warmoth YouTube channel, and take a fair amount of heat for not using a spectrum analyzer. To me, that's a waste of time. All that matters to me is what I can hear. And that's all the matters to you. We can both hear different results, and both be right. No need for arguments.

OP: you're overthinking it. Adjust your pickups by ear. Nothing else matters.
 

Tone_Terrific

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
33,484
To me, that's a waste of time. All that matters to me is what I can hear. And that's all the matters to you. We can both hear different results, and both be right. No need for arguments.
In practice, at a personal, level this is 100% true.
But what happens as soon as someone tries to sell you something based on their perception, or maybe genuine 'snake oil' and offers their personal anecdote as proof that you should have one?
Your business thrives on this (that's not an attack on your biz) i.e. subjective variations.

Occasionally, someone 'hears' something that defies electrical principles and Laws of physics (ex. directional cables).
If that is good enough for them, fine, but to propagate such conjecture proof should be presented.

Likewise, in your business, measured response of various parts would dismiss the exaggerated claims associated with some items.
That does not diminish the importance of simply picking what one prefers, subjectively, but might provide guidance for anyone trying to hit a performance target that others should appreciate, too.
 

singlecutarmy

Member
Messages
1,622
I would argue that raw DB is less accurate than your ears, because while they might read equal volume wise on a meter, the dynamics will change the perceived volume.
 




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